Albany Institute of History and Art

Albany, NY

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Hudson River School Artist Sanford Gifford (1823-1880) Acquisition by Albany Institute


Mount Merino and the City of Hudson in Autumn, c. 1851-52, oil on canvas, Albany Institute purchase, gift by exchange, Governor and Mrs. W. Averell Harriman.


The Albany Institute of History and Art continues to build its significant collection of Hudson River School landscape paintings with the acquisition of Sanford R. Gifford's Mount Merino and the City of Hudson in Autumn. The painting will be on view through September 6,1998 in the second floor alcove as part of the Institute's New Acquisitions Exhibition.

"The Institute has been interested in acquiring a painting by Gifford for a number of years, not only because he is a second generation Hudson River School painter, but also because he was born in Greenfield in Saratoga County in 1823," explains Tammis Groft, Albany Institute of History and Art Chief Curator. "Because we have related Gifford materials, this painting is such a perfect match for the Institute. A particular strength of the museum's mission is that we collect, preserve, and interpret objects that reflect the contextual relationship between these objects and their makers and owners," adds Groft.

Related Hudson River School materials in the museum's collection include 65 paintings, drawings, sketch books, scrapbooks, letters and photographs. The Institute's Gifford materials include his box of English watercolors inscribed "S.R. Gifford 1848," seven sketch books dating from 1848-1859, an 1850 oil portrait of his sister Cornelia, who died at age 16 of tuberculosis, and an 1871 bronze portrait bust of Gifford by the Albany sculptor Launt Thompson, given to AIHA by the Gifford family; the only other known bust is in the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Mount Merino and the City of Hudson in Autumn was painted about 1851. This painting is an early example of Gifford's work and clearly reflects his admiration for the work of Thomas Cole. It is classic early Gifford and shows his strong interest in pictoral composition, meticulous attention to detail, subtle use of color and his light-filled atmospheres. The city of Hudson and the Catskill Mountains were one of Gifford's favorite subjects. Scholars believe the painting is based directly on a sketch Gifford made from his family's property dated 1851. Gifford typically went from pencil sketch to oil sketch to medium to large for successful canvases. The whereabouts of the small oil sketch and large painting are unknown, making this the only known painting of this popular view in Gifford's repertoire.

Born on July 10, 1823 in Greenfield, Saratoga County, Sanford R. Gifford was the fourth of seven children. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Hudson, New York where his father established a successful iron foundry and raised his children in comfortable, cultivated and literate surroundings.

Unlike most of his contemporary Hudson River School painters, Gifford attended college, spending two years at Brown University from 1842-1844. He moved to New York City and studied with John Rubens Smith, an accomplished drawing master. Giiford also studied with Henry Ary, a local painter form Hudson, New York, who iniroduced Gifford to the work of Cole. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Design in 1854. Prior to that he was a member of the New York Sketch Club (1847-1849).

Gifford was one of the few artists who actively participated in the Civil War, serving as a member of the 7th Regiment of the NYS National Guard. He served three tours of duty in the defense of Washington, DC. The McKinney Library has two scrapbook/sketchbooks devoted to this time period.

Sanford Gifford spent his remaining years at a studio in the Studio Building on West 10th Street until his death in 1880. The building was solely designed for artists. Upon his death, the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized a large Memorial Exhibition and Catalogue, which still stands today as the best record of his work.

Mount Merino and the City of Hudson in Autumn will be on view at the Albany Institute through September 6, 1998.

For biographical information on artists referenced above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

rev. 6/30/10

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